HC Deb 24 April 1885 vol 297 cc643-6

, in moving— That the Petition of Peter Williamson Dumville and Henry Daniel Davies, presented on the 17th instant, he referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, with an Instruction to report whether Standing Order 62 has teen complied with, said, that the Petition complained of a grievance; and he did not know upon what ground the Motion could be resisted, seeing that the House had always been willing to consider grievances which were set forth in a respectful manner.

Motion made, and Question proposed, That the Petition of Peter Williamson Dumville and Henry Daniel Davies, presented on the 17th instant, be referred to the Examiners of Petitions for Private Bills, with an Instruction to report whether Standing Order 62 has been complied with."—(Sir James Clarke Lawrence.)


said, he felt himself compelled to oppose the Motion, and he trusted that the House would not entertain it. As far as he could ascertain, there was no precedent for the course which had been taken in the matter, or, at all events, if there was, he had been unable to find it. The question was one which could not greatly interest the House; but it was, nevertheless, of considerable importance to those who were immediately concerned in it. The circumstances under which the hon. Baronet the Member for Lambeth (Sir James C. Lawrence) made the Motion were these: Mr. Dumville and Mr. Davies, the gentlemen whose names were mentioned in the Motion, had presented a Petition against the Mersey Railway Bill, which had been referred by the House to a Select Committee. The Court of Referees, in accordance with the usual practice of the House, had inquired into the locus standi of the Petitioners, and, having disallowed it, Mr. Dumville and Mr. Davies were not in a position to appear before the Committee against the Bill. It was now sought, on their part, to go behind this decision of the Court of Referees, which was the recognized tribunal of the House, and to have the Bill referred back to the Examiners of Petitions on Private Bills, with an Instruction to the Examiners to report whether Standing Order 62 had been properly complied with. He understood that Mr. Dumville was a proprietor of 12 shares in the Mersey Railway Company, and that in July last he parted with those 12 shares to Mr. Davies. The Wharncliffe meeting, at which the consent of the shareholders was given to the Company to proceed with the Bill, was held in February last, seven months after the transfer of shares took place. Mr. Dumville had, of course, ceased to be a shareholder; but Mr. Davies, to whom the transfer had been made, went to the office and requested to be allowed to register them in an irregular manner. He was desired to comply with the usual formality, which, although he had been in possession of the shares for more than six months, he had not complied with, and had, therefore, never become a registered shareholder of the Company. At the Wharncliffe meeting resolutions were passed in favour of proceeding with the Bill, and it was now sought by persons who had never represented more than 12 shares in the Company to have the progress of the Bill stopped, and to evade the decision of the Court of Referees by endeavouring to convert the Examiners of Private Bills into a legal Court, which they had never claimed to be, to determine a question of registration under the Joint Stock Companies Act. He ventured to think that the House of Commons, which had quite enough to do, would be unwilling to undertake a novel and embarrassing duty of this kind. As he had shown that there was no ground for the Motion, and that no precedent existed for it, he should oppose it in every possible way.


said, the case had been before the Court of Referees, to which he had the honour to belong, and he would explain how the matter had arisen. The House would be aware that, under one of the Standing Orders, a shareholder of a Company was not allowed to oppose a Bill introduced by the Company, provided that the opinion of the shareholders had been expressed in its favour at a properly constituted Wharncliffe meeting. The facts of the case had been fully stated by his right hon. Friend the Member for the University of Cambridge (Mr. Raikes). There had been a transfer of shares from Mr. Dumville to Mr. Davies; and the question whether the Company were right or wrong in refusing to recognize and register the transfer was not a question for the Court of Referees. If the Company had acted wrongly, the Courts of Law were open to the persons who felt themselves aggrieved for the purpose of compelling registration, and it would have been a most improper course for the Court of Referees to have assumed the functions of a Court of Law. That was one of the reasons why he and his Colleagues came to the decision to refuse to admit this Petition; but there was a further reason—namely, that by the certificate of the Examiners, who had certified that all the proper notices had been given, and all the necessary forms had been complied with, the question had been, in point of fact, taken out of their jurisdiction. To call upon the Examiners to decide a question which a Court of Law only could deal with, and to ask them to pronounce whether the Company had or had not good reason for refusing to register the transfer, would, in his opinion, be most improper.

Question put, and negatived.

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